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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Dale Chappell

Amid Scandal, Missouri Governor Issues Commutations and Pardons, Passes New Laws Before Resigning

by Dale Chappell

As his resignation was about to take effect late on June 1, 2018, scandal-plagued Missouri Governor Eric Greitens pardoned five convicted felons, commuted the sentences of four others and signed 77 new bills into law – including one that makes it illegal to post the same type of “revenge porn” that led to his own downfall.

Had he remained in office, Greitens may have become Missouri’s first governor to be impeached by the legislature, where he faced charges of official misconduct after a recording surfaced of a phone call he made to his hairdresser’s husband, claiming he had taken partially nude photos of the woman and threatening to release them if she exposed her 2015 affair with Greitens, who is also married. The new law that Greitens signed before leaving office makes it a crime to electronically transmit a compromising photo of a person without their consent.

An investigation by the office of Attorney General Josh Hawley also discovered that Greitens’ 2016 campaign illegally solicited contributions from people who made donations to a veterans charity the governor had started in 2007, called Mission Continues.

In April 2018, a St. Louis grand jury indicted Greitens on a felony ...

Ex-Washington Prison Superintendent Under Investigation for Misuse of Funds

by Dale Chappell

Douglas Cole, the former superintendent of the Cedar Creek Corrections Center in Thurston County, was quietly moved to another Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) position after a whistleblower exposed his alleged misuse of prison money.

An internal review found that about $145,000 of the prison’s purchases since July 2016 had been made without following the state’s guidelines for major expenditures. It was discovered that Cole would split up purchases to avoid having to get approval from the administration and to circumvent the bidding process.

The WDOC employee who outed Cole said she “became very concerned that what was being done was not right.” When she tried to get clarification on his purchases, she was reportedly intimidated by another prison employee.

Cole’s actions were “intended to hide/tuck money away to purchase goods without the proper approvals” and to purposefully avoid having to get administrative approval in order to bypass budget constraints, the internal review stated.

For example, a purchase of several furnaces for the prison was split into four billings; had they been billed together, approval from the WDOC’s central office would have been required. In another case, Cole bought $24,000 worth of mattresses ...

Florida District Court Allows Suit Against Prisoner Transport Companies to Proceed

by Dale Chappell

On July 30, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida denied a motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by Prisoner Transportation Services, LLC (PTS) and its subsidiary, U.S. Corrections, LLC (USC), in a lawsuit over inhumane conditions during the transport of more than 1,000 prisoners.

When Broward County, Florida filed charges against Jeffrey E. Groover, a federal prisoner housed at FCI Butner in North Carolina, the county contracted with USC to pick him up and extradite him to face the charges. During the 52-hour road trip, Groover was forced to sit in a “dog cage” as the van driver called it, which measured just 34 inches wide by 42 inches high. There was no air-conditioning and only one small vent. The van rarely stopped for breaks and Groover was allowed just one cup of water and some food every eight hours. After 24 hours into the trip, Groover suffered delusions and vomited. The driver gave him an extra cup of water. Due to the extreme heat, Groover had a heat stroke.

He filed a pro se lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in federal court against Broward ...

BOP’s Violation of Alcohol Policy Ends in Expungement, Reversal of Disciplinary Sanctions

by Dale Chappell

The Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) violation of its own alcohol policy prompted the expungement of disciplinary reports and reversal of sanctions imposed on two prisoners after they challenged their disciplinary convictions in court.

On March 11, 2017, guards at FCI Marianna in Florida conducted mass alcohol testing of an entire housing unit, supposedly based on information there was alcohol in that area. Guards went room to room and tested every prisoner, locking up those who tested positive for alcohol and charging them with a 112-series disciplinary violation.

Two of those prisoners were Jon Bartlett and Neal Jowers, who both tested positive for alcohol. Bartlett’s test showed a BAC level of 0.013, while Jowers’ was 0.008.

Placed in handcuffs, they were taken to segregation and, after a hearing before a disciplinary officer, were kept in segregation for 21 days plus the time they waited for the hearing. They also lost numerous privileges, including visits, commissary and their jobs, and were placed in “least preferred housing” – a three-man cell designed for only two – once they were released from segregation. They also were put on the BOP’s “hot list,” which requires more frequent random drug ...

New York’s Prison-to-Shelter Pipeline is Poor Option for Parolees

by Dale Chappell

Released from prison, many New York parolees – instead of getting back on their feet through re-entry programs – are heading to homeless shelters in New York City. Of approximately 9,300 prisoners paroled from state prisons in 2017, 54 percent (around 5,000) went directly to shelters – up from 23 percent just three years earlier.

Those 5,000 parolees represented about one in seven of the state’s 35,500 parolees and about one in five new arrivals at New York City homeless shelters last year. The state’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) does not track how long they stay there, but said the population is fluid enough that only about 1,600 parolees are in the city’s shelter system at any given time.

“It’s like living in a maze,” said Fred Henderson, who was released from prison in 2009. “The shelter system is worse than prison. At least in prison you know how long you’re gonna be in there and then you get released. In the shelter system, you’re allegedly free, but you’re not. It’s like doing another sentence.”

Henderson, 58, served 10 years for bank robbery at the state’s Franklin ...

San Diego County Targets Reporter Who Exposed Sky-High Jail Death Rate

by Dale Chappell

When the widow of a prisoner who committed suicide at a San Diego County jail filed suit claiming staff had been made aware of the jail’s high death rate due to a reporter’s local news reports, the county went after the journalist instead of trying to address the problem.

Although Los Angeles County’s jail population is three times larger than San Diego’s, the death rate in San Diego jails is higher. Much higher. Between 2007 and 2012, 60 prisoners died in San Diego County’s jail system – including 16 suicides. In fact, none of the 10 largest jails in the state had a higher death rate.

The county has been hit with multiple lawsuits over prisoner deaths and paid out millions of dollars in two lawsuits in 2017. The county was well aware it had a problem with high death rates in its jail system.

When former U.S. Marine Kristopher Nesmith’s widow sued in 2017 over her husband’s death by suicide at a San Diego jail, part of the evidence cited in the lawsuit was a San Diego CityBeat article titled “60 Dead Inmates” by Kelly Davis, an award-winning journalist who exposed the problem of the ...

Louisiana Jail Settles with DOJ Over HIV Discrimination

by Dale Chappell

The Union Parish Detention Center (UPDC) in Farmerville, Louisiana reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in March 2018 to stop discriminating against HIV-positive prisoners, plus the parish agreed to pay $27,500 to one detainee held in segregation for six months due to his HIV status.

UPDC staff confined the prisoner with HIV to his cell and posted signs on his door while jail employees deliberately told other prisoners about his HIV status, exposing him to harassment and potential harm, the DOJ found. The Department of Justice is authorized to investigate complaints under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12134. Those who are HIV-positive are considered to have a disability under the ADA.

The agreement requires the UPDC to stop segregating prisoners with HIV and to afford them the same benefits as other prisoners, including equal housing, recreation, commissary services and access to dayrooms, televisions and phones. The UPDC is also required to assign an ADA coordinator and to report its enforcement of the agreement to the DOJ. Further, all UPDC staff must receive annual HIV training.

According ...

Oregon County Pays $2.85 Million for Dehydration Death of Mentally Ill Jail Prisoner

by Dale Chappell

Lincoln County, Oregon agreed to pay $2.85 million to settle a wrongful death suit filed by the family of a 55-year-old mentally ill prisoner who died of dehydration at the county jail.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in 2016, claimed that jailers had violated Bradley ...

Maine: Superior Court’s Dismissal for Lack of Jurisdiction Not Supported by the Record

by Dale Chappell

A sua sponte dismissal for lack of jurisdiction by a state Superior Court was improper, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court held on April 19, 2018, when the record was “otherwise devoid” of any indication the Superior Court lacked jurisdiction in the case.

Steve Anctil, a state prisoner, filed a pro se petition under Maine Rule of Civil Procedure 80C, seeking review of a disciplinary decision by the Department of Corrections (DOC). He argued that the DOC committed several procedural and constitutional errors, and asked the Superior Court to vacate the DOC’s decision and award damages. Anctil also filed an application to proceed without payment of fees, with an attached certificate of his prison trust account.

The Superior Court, however, was not inclined to hear the case. Without any input from the DOC and on its own initiative, the Court dismissed Anctil’s petition with a single sentence: “After review of the pleadings the Court orders: case dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.” The Court did not indicate why it lacked jurisdiction, and Anctil appealed.

A court may dismiss a case for lack of jurisdiction only when it is clear from the petition, or when a party raises the ...

Despite Lack of FCC Action, States Can Still Make Prison and Jail Calls Affordable

by Dale Chappell

Although prison phone service providers and law enforcement officials won their lawsuit to block the FCC’s $.11-per-minute cap on intrastate (in-state) prison phone calls [see: PLN, July 2017, p.52], states can still lower the rates – to even below $.11 per minute – and some have done so. Interstate (long distance) phone rates remain capped by a 2013 FCC order at $.25 per minute for collect calls and $.21 per minute for debit and prepaid calls. [See: PLN, Dec. 2013, p.1].

Governors and city and county officials have the power to stop the price-gouging of prisoners and their families by prison telecom companies, said Paul Wright, executive director of the Human Rights Defense Center, which publishes PLN and directs the national Campaign for Prison Phone Justice. While a number of states have lowered prison phone rates, at the county jail level “things are really a disaster,” he noted.

Many counties continue to charge $15, $18 or even more for a 15-minute intrastate call. The problem is “commission” kickbacks from phone service providers, noted Aleks Kajstura, legal director for the Prison Policy Initiative. Whereas government agencies usually contract with a vendor that can provide the ...


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